Skip to main content

tv   History of Presidential Drinking  CSPAN  March 29, 2015 11:30am-12:33pm EDT

11:30 am
i know we are probably out of time, but let me say one other thing that i know is true about the study of history. history teaches that each of us has a birthday coming up. nothing is better for a birthday than a new book. i would remind you that once we finish thinking fred for this chat, there are copies of his book for sale in the lobby. it would make a fine birthday present. [applause] fred: if you should read the book, i personally guarantee that he will not intervene -- you will not intervene in southeast asia at any time with military force. it has been wonderful. i thank you for coming out on this evening and for being here, for listening, for your great questions. thank you. [applause] announcer: you are watching american history tv, 40 eight hours of american history on c-span three. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule of upcoming programs and the latest history news.
11:31 am
announcer 2: up next, mark webber, the complete history of residential drinking. he talks about the drinking habits of u.s. presidents and how it shaped relations in u.s. decision-making. franken roosevelt -- franken roosevelt drank martinis and a coat closet to hide it from his mother. this is one hour. mark: i would like to welcome you to the mcgowan theater and washington, d.c. i would like to thank all of you for coming out today after the snow we had yesterday. i hope you deny can cabin fever or anything like that. our talk is about mint juleps
11:32 am
with teddy roosevelt: the complete history of presidential drinking by mark will webber. it is presented in conjunction with our new exhibit. americans have enjoyed a drink. at times many of us have enjoyed a lot of drinks. other americans fearing the harm that would do to society and individuals have tried to stop or limit our drinking. these two different views of alcoholic beverages run throughout american history. sometimes they have existed in relative peace, other times in war. government programs and policies changed over time. the stories they tell -- the exhibit will be open until --
11:33 am
over the course of the next 10 months while the exhibit is open, the national archives will present a series of talks discussions, films, and wine and whiskey tastings. to find out more about these and the exhibits, take one of our monthly event calendars from the theater lobby or visited our website. our topic for today is mint juleps with teddy roosevelt: the complete history of presidential drinking. mark will webber is a seasoned journalist. he has published a noted historical feature on the battle of antietam. his grandfather served in three
11:34 am
wars, mexican border war, world war i, and world war ii, and served as a united states congressman from 1933-1942. mark has an extensive background in journalism, and has written for publications including the new york's times. he is author of a trivia brick -- book. pleas join me in welcoming mark will webber to the national archives. [applause] mark: it is great to be at the national archives today. thank you for having me. if you remember what yesterday was like, it was like in 1841
11:35 am
when william henry harrison was ignoring it -- inaugurated here in the city. he is most famous for the president to served the shortest term because he died a month after he was inaugurated. the theory was that was in that terrible weather and did not wear a hat. he probably needed a whiskey chaser or two toward off the cold. for my research when i started this book, mint juleps with teddy roosevelt: the complete history of presidential drinking harrison is most famous because his campaign had an alcohol slogan. he was the law can and hard cider campaign. they actually used the hard cider during campaigning, make these cabins at election sites,
11:36 am
and his supporters would drink hard cider all the time. when i think of harrison, i think of that. the book itself came about because of a golf book. i am not a golfer, and i have not red this book, first off the tee. in that book, they talk about warren g. harding, during prohibition, nobody is supposed to drink or transport alcohol and harding would go golfing at chevy chase and other golf courses around the city, and he would habitually stash a fifth of whiskey in his golf bag, and
11:37 am
every couple of holes he would take a shot or two of whiskey. he rarely broke a hundred, which might explain why. [laughter] my friend red that and said he was fascinated by that or he wanted to know what all those guys drink. he suggested that i write this. i thought, what a mug and a with guys like carter of coleridge. they will be boring. i put it off, and he kept after me. finally i said if i find the guys who did not drink much are interesting, then i will keep going. billy carter drank a lot and embarrass his brother. i figured out how to handle the four or five presidents who were very light drinkers. the rest of the guys drank
11:38 am
enough that they were interesting on their own without their family members helping. that is how it came about. i am going to do a powerpoint for a half hour and then we can do a q&a. i haven know stuff about millard fillmore, if you want to know about him. we will start. drinking with the presidents this is a cartoon by a washington, d.c. area guide richard thompson. he gave me permission to use it. nice guy. it shows the two extremes of a president. there is grover cleveland, whose real name was stephen, his name was big steve or uncle jimbo. there is calvin coolidge, he hardly drank it all.
11:39 am
he did occasionally have a beer prior to prohibition. coolidge was not the most exciting president. he was famous for not talking and he -- somebody wants that next to him at a dinner party and said to him, i have a bet that i can get you to say more than three words. he looked at her and said, you lose. [laughter] as i said, not a ball of fire. when he died, dorothy parker, the writer and humorist who held court at the algonquin hotel somebody told her that president coolidge died. she said, how could they tell? [laughter] cleveland was a fun guy. when he was a young politician in buffalo, he was running for some small office against a friend of his. they both agree that it would
11:40 am
not look good if they were drinking all the time on the campaign trail so they agreed to limit themselves -- this will show you where he is coming from -- to four beers a day. after a week, they both agreed that was too arduous. they did not want to break their promise of four beers a day, so what they did is doubled the size of their beer stein, from 16 ounces to 20 answers. they stated the alledge for beer limit. that is what they did. father of our country, george washington, and i often get asked what washington drank. he drank madeira wine. they often fortified their wine with rom, so it was a potent drink. he loved champagne. one of his favorite drinks was a dark beer from philadelphia.
11:41 am
an englishman brewed it. when you go through washington's letters, it is fun when you stumble on one where he is writing to one of his friends in philadelphia and saying, if he has made any more of his exquisite porter could he pleas send three gross to mount vernon because i know there will be a great need for it. he loved his dark beer. the brewery in philadelphia, a microbrewery, makes a good facsimile of that beer. i am not sponsored by yards, but i wish they were. they have a george washington tavern porter brewed with molasses. it was part of the formula. it is very authentic to the recipe of the beer that washington loved. the other interesting thing about washington is that he did not really drink whiskey, but he manufactured whiskey and sold it.
11:42 am
he was in fact one of the biggest sellers on the mount vernon plantation. he went into the business a couple years after he put down the whiskey rebellion. [laughter] i don't think that was coincidental but he put down the whiskey rebellion and within a couple of years he decides to go into the whiskey business and they did cry a lively trade. they sold the whiskey off the back of wagons in old town alexandria across the river. he wrote this in a letter to a friend or relative, i forget. mr. anderson has engaged me in a distillery on a small scale and is very desirous of increasing it, assuring me that i shall find my account in it. by that he meant make money, which he did. they have reconstructed the distillery. you can go there.
11:43 am
it is expensive, $90 a bottle. friends in the whiskey better than i do claim it is more like moonshine, not top shelf while turkey or anything. if you do shell out the $90 for it, be forewarned. anderson was one of washington's guise of mount vernon. he was of scottish ancestry. he knew how to make this stuff and pressing washington into it. they had five stills cranking out whiskey that they sold. as you can see this is monticello, and jefferson is often called the father of american wine. that would make ben franklin the grandfather since he taught jefferson a lot of about it when they were diplomats in france. the interesting thing about jefferson is that he almost went bankrupt because of his -- he
11:44 am
loved to entertain. he had to have top shelf one all the time. he would not settle for the second-best, and he entertains are frequently and so lavishly that by the time of his death monticello was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. his daughter, in fact, had to sell monticello not long after jefferson had died. when you go to his account books, it is interesting because he was brave meticulous about how much they drank the year before. so, he would also say things like, you would see 423 bottles of champagne, and then he would cross that out and write 500 for the next year. he did not want to because short. [laughter] his correspondence back-and-forth and forth to europe was often phrase such as, i don't care what it costs, but make sure you're giving me the top shelf, the best stuff.
11:45 am
he always wants the really good stuff, and of course that amounts up over time. jefferson was an anti-whiskey president, and the people that came after him like madison and monroe were also very much in that way. he said no nation is drunken where wine is cheap. wine is in truth the only antidote to the bane of whiskey. it was a very aristocratic view of drinking, and he saw the damage that whiskey could do to the average man in the street. he wanted it to be a more refined drinking, as it was in europe, as the french had taught him. jefferson was so into wine that there is as funny letter he writes to monroe after monroe is
11:46 am
president for they were good friends. he sends them a five-page letter. the first paragraph says something like, congratulations on being elected president. you will be a great president. that kind of thing. let's not dwell on that any longer. the next one i have pages are all about what wines he is ordering and white monroe should also ordered them. it's like, hey, your president. let's get down to ordering some wine. march 15 is andrew jackson's birthday. this is jackson after the inauguration in 1829. the masses were invited to the inauguration party at the white house. they burst in theirre and he almost had to have a protective scrum around him. imagine a very large st. bernard
11:47 am
with muddy pause. they came in with muddy boots, stood on tables, broke crockery all inebriated, intoxicated. the upper crust of washington was appalled. they called them mob, rabble that kind of thing. jackson was the first to be said to be the president of the people. initially, he did not mind having these guys in the white house. the only way they finally got them outside again was that they carry these buckets of orange whiskey punch onto the white house lawn and they all went back outside. according to one account jackson had to crawl out a back window to get out of there, and he did and spent the night in alexandria at gatsby's tavern. jackson's letters are like washington very fun to go through when you find out all references.
11:48 am
here is one. a guy made a really nice handmade pair of pistols. jackson love to fight duels and things like that. he was in the president who killed a man in a duel. by the time he was president, he has a bullet or two in his body from some of these misadventures. this was a thank you note to the man who made in pistols. dear sir, this morning your pistols was handed to me together with your letter for which i thank you. the whiskey you can have at any time in such quantities as you may think proper, or as you may require. like washington, jackson had his own whiskey manufacturing at the hermitage in tennessee, and also at another property. he basically was telling captain robert hays to take as much as he wanted or needed. that was pretty common in his day, using whiskey almost as a currency. not only did he may get an
11:49 am
seleka, but he also used it for bartering. when you go through his notes you often see that he is trading whiskey for this and that. this is john adams, second president. this guy was an incredible drinker. i mean that in a good way in that he really did not show he was inebriated very often, and he could drink in amounts of alcohol and not show it, so he is one of the guys that i put in the heavyweight category for presidential drinking. he also used tobacco from the age of 10 or something. imagine, he lived to be 91 which is incredible that he often had hard cider in the morning for his breakfast drink not just once just for these guys. when he was in philadelphia for the continental congress, this
11:50 am
is one of his entries. it is pretty common that he would write this, or sometimes in a letter back to his wife abigail, he would mention where and what he was drinking. dined with mr. benjamin chew wines most excellent and admirable. i drank of a deer at a great rate and found no inconvenience in it. they did not say hangover, but when they say they felt no inconvenience, it meant they had no hangover. if they broke they had great inconvenience, then you knew the word headache would appear along with it. one of the fun things about embarking on this subject was that i had to sort of learn a different language for the revolutionary presidents because they used a different alcohol slang, inconvenience instead of hangover. they would also, instead of
11:51 am
saying he was on a bender or a three day bench, they would say he was on quiet a frolic, which sounds so innocent, like they are skipping or something. [laughter] that was their code for this guy is at the bottle for several days. that alcohol slang was quiet interesting, and often instead of saying he was a drunk, they would say he was white bottled. -- white bottled -- fuddled. this is john quincy adams. he also must've picked up his father's gene for handling alcohol. he was no stranger to it. he starts out at harvard not really much of an imbibe her, but by the time he is a law student, he is added very heavy.
11:52 am
here is an entry i found in his diary. it is an interesting number of entries in this particular diary, where he does talk about over indulging. after this quote, he talks about how he did not really drink that much to feel as bad as he feels. finally after the third day, he acknowledges that he has overindulged and said something that -- to the effect that the punishment is always more than the deed. we got to singing after supper, and the bottle got round with an unusual rapidity, and tell a dozen had disappeared. i then thought it was high time to retreat and slipped away from those of the company who appeared to be the most inspired. john quincy adams is often talking about these companions of his that are much more party oriented than he is, or
11:53 am
occasionally dragging him to their misadventures. this is our boy, teddy roosevelt , i should say theodore because he did not like the name teddy. people ask me if he would have liked my book. i think they -- that he would but not the title. he was a moderate drinker unlike his relation, fdr, who was fairly heavy. teddy was sort of moderate in his drinking partly because members of his family had rather severe issues with alcohol. people assumed that he drank more than he did. especially some of his enemies. the title for my book, why did i settle on that? one of the things he did enjoy was an occasional meant julep.
11:54 am
usually, he like to have his meant julep when he had tennis matches. he was a big tennis enthusiast. they had a fine bed of fresh meant new the tennis court. when he got into something teddy did it for blast. he would want to play tennis even if it was raining. the younger men in his cabinet used to complain when he wanted to play tennis. he used these men to julep's as an enticement. he would reward these players with a mint julep. he would somehow hand them to someone, and they would thank him. you may recall that his cabinet became known as the tennis cabinet. there was a fine bed of mint at
11:55 am
the white house, i may have drunk a half dozen in a year. teddy roosevelt, giving court testimony against newspaper charges that he abused -- and roosevelt was sick of these attacks on his character. he went to michigan to hire a great lawyer out of chicago and went out and won the case quiet easily. he could have sued the man for enough to put him under. he settled for six cents and when he walked out of the court the reporters gathered around and said, mr. roosevelt, why only six cents? he said that that is the price of a good newspaper. the guy -- when the guy sued
11:56 am
them, newspaper sold for three cents. he used it to make a point. after that, these nuisance attacks on his character stopped. here is teddy's relative, fdr. here was a guy who really could drink. he did so right through his harvard days and on. he liked rum swizzle's, champagne, cocktails. we associate him with a cocktail more than anything. surprisingly and my research, i found he also liked beer. you would not think he was a beer guy, but he would love to have four or five bottles of beer when he played poker. he loved to play poker. he would sometimes get in a poker game from 10:00 to 2:00 in the morning, and he would certainly have the better parts of a sixpack in that time. one of my favorite stories in the book, and my mother found this for me, and said she thought i would want this for the book.
11:57 am
i was dubious at first. it turned out to be one of the nice finds i felt. it is the story of martha gilmore and hemingway's third wife was often a guest at the white house. one day at the white house, she is coming down the stairs at and here's giggling from the coat closet. she is curious coming down the stairs and here's his commotion, and she can't resist peeking into the coat closet. in there is fdr with a couple of people around him, and he is mixing up a batch of martini secretly, and giggling like a schoolboy. there is the leader of the western world hiding in a coat closet, making a batch of martinis, and the reason was was that his mother was a very strong matriarch. she would admonish him if he had more than one in front of people. she did not care.
11:58 am
he was hiding in the coat closet from his mother. there he was giggling like a schoolboy, pulling a fast one on his mother. we know that fdr revoked prohibition, and we should also lead him for that. right before his fireside chat in 1933, he turned to his dinner guests and said, i think this would be a good time for beer. of course, the entire country pretty much welcomed that decision after more than a decade of being in prohibition. budweiser sent a wagon of beer down pennsylvania avenue to deliver to the white house when he made this decision. fdr was always a wet and he
11:59 am
never tried to four political can being in's -- convenience never tried to be anything else. he drank throughout prohibition. he would brag to his friends that he could make a champagne cocktail as well as at the waldorf astoria. he would court the drive vote and drink the entire time, held poker games where you can did any kind of whiskey you wanted at the white house, that kind of thing. he was very hypocritical about his drinking, where fdr would say have a line from beginning to the end that he was a wet. jfk, people often think he was a big drinker. he wasn't. he was quiet moderate in his drinking. i will say this, kennedy would
12:00 pm
not have been president if it was not for alcohol because his father, joe kennedy, made a vast fortune in his alcohol dealings. you often hear that joe kennedy was a bootlegger. that proof of that is very scant. i wouldn't agree to that. what he did do when he was arrested to england, he knew that prohibition was going to be revoked, ahead of time, he lined up all of these contracts with scotch engine companies in england, and he had almost a monopoly on scotch when we went back to drinking again. this is great story where truman -- truman love bourbon. and fact, he would have two or three ounces in the morning. i journal is on a train once said president, would you like
12:01 pm
to have a scots with us? said, no, i don't think so. and he said, what about suburban? he said, sure i'll have a burden. and the journals was curious, they said, mr. truman, you don't like scott? you won't have scotch with us? and he said, every time you have a scotch, you put a quarter in joe kennedy's pocket. he didn't like joe kennedy. truman was very slow to endorse kennedy, even though they were both democrats. the journalist said, what is it that you don't like about kennedy, the confusing catholic? you remember, that was a big controversy. truman said, it's not the pope i am worried about, it's the pop. he thought that joe kennedy would control the sun and he did not want joe kennedy to be involved. this is from that bradley "washington post" editor. he claims -- he hung out with
12:02 pm
jfk a lot -- i like this phrase it describes jfk is being tight. you don't hear that much. maybe my parents would have said that. and his memoir, as bradley wrote, champagne was flowing like the potomac, and the president himself was opening bottle after bottle in a manner that sent foam flying over the furniture. that was probably top shelf champagne. probably pretty good stuff. it came about that they had an impromptu party at the white house. jackie was out of town, but jackie's sister, who was quite a socialite, was there, and she was teaching jfk and some of the staffers how to do the twist. one thing led to another, they started opening up champagne and were dancing to chubby
12:03 pm
checker records. jfk open the champagne, and was probably spraying all over the furniture. according to bradley, was probably one of the times he had a little too much. president obama, the chief executive, is a very eclectic drinker. here he is drinking again is an ancestral help in dublin. afterwards, he went up and put his money on the bar. the present always pays the bar tab. he also like some top shelf wine from california. he occasionally enjoys a late-night martini or two according to the "new yorker" article that came out last year. teachings quite a variety of things. he is probably most famous for the white house honey ale that they had.
12:04 pm
they used them honey from the white house beehives. i haven't sampled it yet, by waiting to get the invite any time. it is supposed to be a terrific beer. this is what he said in island, he came up and put his own money, and he says, i just want you to know, the president pays his own bar tab. i was were delighted because obama went in there and they interviewed some of the irish people afterwards, and they loved it because he knocked it down in for five follows. where, when reagan visited, he was in a very big drinker, but would make sure he would have a guinness. he would have two or three sets, but rarely finish it. this is a very grainy old picture from 1856, or so. if you look sort of in the bottom middle there, you will
12:05 pm
see u.s. grant in his uniform, and direct the to have left is johnson. johnson is famous for showing up at lincoln's second not duration completely drunk -- second eggnog duration, completely junk. it was supposed to be a five-minute speech, but he got the broadway hook after going on for 20 minutes. they say that poor lincoln was trying to slink down in his chair out of embarrassment. grant was also not a good drinker. people say, got, he was a big drinker, right? after one glass of whiskey, his face would be flushed. unfortunately, he did not have good breaks. he would keep drinking. grant would go weeks without drinking. he knew -- suspected, i think that he had a problem.
12:06 pm
this officer by the name of rawlins, he and his wife would protect him from drinking. grant would prove elusive sometimes. once he got on a binge, he could keep going. one of the officers said that a single glass of whiskey would show on him, his face would flush at once. another lightweight in drinking i, and i don't mean a heavyweight gold medal drinker. nixon had low tolerance. people around him worried about that. when he went unseen visits, and such. i love this picture though. pouring a vodka cocktail, nixon is laughing. sometimes by two or three glasses of wine, nixon would slur his words. the watergate debacle, when
12:07 pm
he the walls were crashing in at the end, sometimes he would drink and i'll. if you saw the movie "sideways," nixon would drunk dial. he had his habit of doing it from thank the minty. he would call lawyers back in washington. it would be the wee hours of the morning, he would say, i don't care comic get lenny on the phone. people ask me does presidential drinking ever affect important of defense -- important events. it certainly has. this is when someone call the white house and needed to talk to nixon urgently. i think kissinger got him on the phone -- answer the phone and
12:08 pm
they said, we need to talk to nixon. he said, can we tell them no? and they said, what do you mean, he was loaded? she said something to the effect of ok, i will call again tomorrow, as though wasn't such an unusual occurrence that the president was out of commission. as i said, i didn't quite know what to do with jimmy carter. i thought, wait a minute, billy carter. he is sort of the poster child of the phrase, you can pick your friends, but not your relatives. he drank enough for jimmy and everybody else, i think. jimmy was -- jimmy drink a little more than people thought but certainly not to excess. one of the most trying things was when he had the powwow with
12:09 pm
the russians. the russians would always insist that he would have these vodka toast. jamie finally arranged to get a very small glass of white wine. he would not down his two ounces of chardonnay, and in the russian leader would tease him. this is from jimmy carter's own memoir. during suffer, we -- during supper, we offered several toasts it he bottom up his glass of vodka each time teasing me when i failed to do the same. there was a response and called "the business." they had a song called, " drinking and driving is so much fun. go it is not polite to speak in those terms these days. one of the presidents who like
12:10 pm
to drink and drive was lbj. to be fair, he did is on his own ranch, which was about the size of rhode island. he would go round in his lincoln continental, drink scotch in a plastic cup, and when he won and more, he would stop and battle the ice cubes out of the window, and of course secret service guys would refill. if you actually fortunate enough to be in the car and say, mr. president, you may be going to bed fast, he would sometimes take his 10 gallon hat off and put it over this but don that would solve that. this is his lincoln continental this is his amphibious car. he would come barreling down a hill to his leg on his ranch and he would go, i don't have any breaks!
12:11 pm
he knew it was an amphibious car, of course, and he would always be drinking when he was driving this one. he would crash into the water, and the people would find out they were ok. lbj liked automobiles, and would often like a drink when driving one. supposedly there was a pillow at his ranch that said this is my ranch and i will do as i damn well please. this is a description as to what it was like to be with lbj, a green colored lincoln continental driven by the president of united states swung into the left lane to pass two cars ok along under 85 miles per hour and thundered over the crest of the hill. the present charge on, a cup of pearl beer within reaching distance. lbj was upset when they
12:12 pm
came out of this. he invited these reported to the ranch, they were having fun, drinking and driving, and then they had the audacity to go back and write about it. there's reagan. as i said, not a big drinker. he would have in common with -- he had in common with clinton and obama that they had that fathers with alcohol problems. i think that made them a bit more wary of alcohol justifiably. reagan would use the alcohol photo op. he would often be photographed with a beer, usually in an irish bar, working-class bar, that sort of thing. as i said, he would have maybe half the glass, and that was it. he also did like some california
12:13 pm
wines, being from california. weirdly enough, reagan having been a hollywood actor, he did not like to do makeup. when i had to go on tv for a couple of things on the book tour, i had to do makeup. i don't like doing makeup either. his aid was distressed about this. reagan was very pale. you didn't want that president going on national tv looking ghostly. what beaver came up with was he would put a really nice glass of red wine on the table before reagan would be due to go on tv. he would see it, drink it, bring the capillaries out in his face and he didn't look quite as pale. it was a really good trick. one of the things i love is reagan has one of the best presidential toast speeches of
12:14 pm
all time. he invited his adversary, tip o'neill, to the white house for -- i figure was his 69 through 70 earth day birthday, i forget. he said, tip, if i had a ticket to heaven, i would give mine away to someone else and go to hell with you. they say tip got teary-eyed about this. as dever said, it didn't prevent o'neill going outside and bashing reagan's policies to reporters afterwards. maybe it was good for the moment, but it didn't last all that long. o'neill would sometimes be referred to -- would refer to reagan as herbert hoover with a smile. that's it.
12:15 pm
i would be glad to take any questions you might have concerning presence and drinking. [applause] could we go to the microphone? i am under orders to make you do that. i was just asked what about lincoln. lincoln was one of our lightest drinkers. he would drink a beer that was about 2% alcohol. they were given to kids back that because the water was so bad. he would have a great sense of humor. he would tease his staff that he would bring a glass of wine up to his lips. then he would put it down and smile.
12:16 pm
he was also seasick once after coming up the chesapeake during that weather. i captain said to him, mr. president, the best thing for that stomach is a glass of champagne. lincoln smiled at him and said i have seen too many seasick with a very stuff. he denied offer. >> around 1900, they banned alcohol in all the ships. [indiscernible] mark: maybe our navy did that -- my suspicion -- the navy had a very uneasy relationship with alcohol. on the one hand, they wanted their soldiers to have it especially in the revolution civil war -- if you go through those diaries, there are constant accounts of men wanting their whiskey or rom. they also ended up having a lot of duelsals between officers.
12:17 pm
they would drink too much, gamble too much, and next thing you know, a good officer or two would be dead. dictator, who died in a duel in the city, is an example of that. it is interesting that you bring it out because the british navy continued well into the 1970's dishing out from rations -- rum rations to its sailors. it was more of a medicinal thing, they thought it would protect them from scurvy, that kind of thing. >> it's interesting that you brought up atoms because he had a son who died of alcoholism. john adams. andrew johnson brought up alcohol probably saved his life. the guy who was opposed to kill
12:18 pm
him got drunk and chickened out. he never would have been president. my question is teddy roosevelt mother was a southern belle from georgia. is that why he got into the mint juleps? he was probably exposed to them when he was growing up. mark: that's a good question. teddy was very proud of his southern roots. he was definitely introduced to any southern hospitality when i came around to drinking. for that matter, woodrow wilson as well. as a boy, we remember robert e lee coming through his town with the confederate cavalry. it's also interesting the bottom of the relatives of the presidents often had alcohol problems. that is kind of a common thread that i found throughout the book. not just with teddy roosevelt but with other people -- johnson, andrew johnson son had
12:19 pm
a very bad outlaw problem. very common. also, what you brought up with andrew johnson escaping the assassination because the assassin got drunk. with lincoln, the irony was that he did not drink him about all played a huge role in his death. we know that john both booth the night -- john wilkes booth the day he killed lincoln was drinking whiskey to get his current job. lincoln's body through the same accounts, went to the saloon to get l. >> i'm curious about the presence during prohibition. period. this is a earlier focus you are looking them personally, but their function publicly, today's
12:20 pm
sort of say no comment when the topic came up? mark: the ones that told the line, people like coolidge and such, they were pretty open about the fact that they didn't drink. it was more about -- they weren't finding fault with it so much as saying this is the law. i'm the president so i need to uphold the law. as we already established warren harding could have cared less. he drank all the time. his cronies during the whole time. they played poker in the white house. one time, harding had had too much to drink an excellent about the whole set of white house china. harding completely disobeyed it. wilson is funny. before i did this book, i must have imagined that wilson was for prohibition. he was president. it was on his watch. when i research the book, i found out that wilson tried to be too prohibition.
12:21 pm
congress overrode his veto. pretty much didn't drink. a little bit. he diedhad had a stroke at that time. he felt a little bit of whiskey was ok to have. hoover claim that he didn't drink at all during probation. he had lots of friends in the belgian in and the sea. the rumor was that hoover would go to the belgian embassy, have a drink or two, and technically he wasn't on u.s. soil. >> did you find any evidence that presidents increase their drinking as a stress reliever when he got into office? in other words did their amount of alcohol consumption perhaps go up after they got into office because they used as a stress reducer. also do you think there any presents today who would have
12:22 pm
been classified as an alcoholic? mark: let me answer th second part of that first. we are pretty sure that pe. . as was an alcoholic. i would say that nixon drink under stress. he was also under medication at the time. we know the alcohol medication is usually a really bad combination. to be fair, he deniedd drunk dialing charges, as did his brother. then you would have to say other people were lying because they are where the story came from. it is pretty well documented. definitely nixon drink more under stress. a gay vote -- it gave a lot of stress to others around him. when he went to china, they had a very strong liquor -- dan
12:23 pm
rather described as drinking lake liquidated razor blades. nixon, as we know, have low tolerance. they actually said memos saying -- sent memo saying that under no circumstances nixon could drink the chinese alcohol. he did, if you a few sips. to show off, someone order into a dish and lit it on fire. nixon was intrigued by this. according to one story, he took it home and was showing off to one of his daughters and almost set a white house tablecloth on fire. i'm not sure i answered everything you asked there. definitely, there were some presidents that i would say had
12:24 pm
big alcohol problems. and for some of them, cigarettes were worth. i would put johnson and eisenhower in that. johnson had several heart attacks, as did ike, and is probably more attributed to their cigarette smoking. ike's most up to -- smoked up to three or four packs a day. >> it is well documented that president taft got stuck in the white house tell. i'm wondering if that is when he was under the influence horse or sober. mark: taft was a huge guy. at times, almost 340 pounds. grover cleveland was very happy about because if it wasn't for task, he would be the biggest guy. task surprisingly, was a very moderate drinker. when he tried to lose weight, he almost out tricking altogether.
12:25 pm
his aid, archibald butt, who later died on the titanic, but loved scotch whiskey and taft knew that. when taft would have a political meeting with someone who is boring and he didn't really want to sit there for one hour with the governor of some state, he would make butt sit down. he would go sit down, thank you note, two hours later, he was listening to the boring rambling of some politician. so that taft would have to endure it himself. >> my question is what about all of these first ladies? what did you stumble upon during your research about their digging habits and how -- their drinking habits?
12:26 pm
mark: it is hard to accumulate enough on the first ladies. there are still things i stumbled upon. actually tafts wife, nelly like to drink beer. she also like to play cards on sunday which alarm people. she had a stroke early on when they entered the white house. that again, was probably due to smoking. her early diaries are filled with references to traveling europe and enjoying beer. even though she had a stroke in the early 1900s, she lived into the 1940's. near the end of her life, she toured mexico and one of the spanish word she learned was the word for beer -- cerveza, i believe it is. betty ford is the of posts or first lady for alcohol issues. she obviously had a problem and
12:27 pm
was very forthcoming with a problem, started the betty ford clinic. there's a great picture of betty for dancing on the white house table, allegedly sober on the last day of ford's administration. ? >> things a lot for your book. it is interesting noticing in your bio -- are you a runner? mark: i used to be. i still try to get out there. >> it is intriguing to me because you have this sense of humor. i have been working on this idea that the more active people are a lot more circulation, oxygen and new nutrients going to your brain. mark: if you have a sense of humor about this book -- if you don't have a sense of humor with this book, you are in trouble. >> did you notice a trend where
12:28 pm
there was a decrease in drinking? or is it all over the map? mark: i would say it is all over the map. one of the trends would which i alluded to earlier was jefferson, munro -- tyler, i would include as well, that aristocratic virginia presidential person were very anti-whiskey. they recognize that whiskey could be a very bad thing for the population at large. they really felt that wine, the way the europeans drink would be the way to go. they feared that this country would actually be undermined by the width you consumption. of course, that was the -- it was more of the whiskey state they wanted to avoid.
12:29 pm
there is a great book out called, "vodka politics," and deals with how russians have been so addicted to vodka and can't get away with it. its whole history is so intertwined with the government and the military. that was what the virginia president feared, a sort of whiskey state. >> it is interesting you mention that. have you read the book "last call" about prohibition. mark: i use that is one of my resources. i was more flipping through it but i do reference it. >> it was an interesting aspect of the book and how beer and whiskey played off each other early on. the other thing that was intriguing in that book was with prohibition -- they were all
12:30 pm
these forces, women suffrage, different groups coming together, but a big forthcoming together with prohibition was the moving of taxes from alcohol to income. that was a huge game changer. that's actually what created the funds for this 20th-century continuous war. they didn't really have a standing army. this was a line unto have the money there to keep the military going. mark: very intertwined. of course, what they discovered once prohibition came in -- of course, mafia, and inkster's -- that was great income for them. people like al capone certainly moved in on that turf. >> markup that we are out of time. we appreciate you coming down here today. mark: thanks for having me. [applause]
12:31 pm
>> you are watching american history tv. all begin, every weekend on c-span 3. to join the conversation, like a fun facebook, c-span history. >> tonight on "q&a" -- eric larson and his book "dead wake." eric: the question gets complicated as to why the lusitania was allowed to enter the irish sea without a detailed warning that could have been providinged but was not.
12:32 pm
this is led to some interesting speculation as to whether the ship was set up for an attack by churchill or someone in the admiralty. it's interesting. i found no smoking memo. believe me, i would have found a smoking memo if it existed. someone saying, let's let the lusitania go into the irish sea. nothing like that existed. >> tonight at 8:00 eastern and pacific. >> up next on american history tv, lois brown, wesleyan university history professor discusses the relationship between whites and newly freed blacks in the aftermath of the civil war. ms. brown says there was a gre

7 Views

disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on